We’ve come to the end of our massive 5th anniversary festival of hate. An index of articles by author is here. We also have a handy index listing all the hated things themselves here.
A couple days ago, Jones (One of the Jones Boys), put up a post logically proving that it is impossible to have a worst comic ever. He argues that there are so many different ways for a comic to be bad that it is impossible to rate or weigh them. Or, as he puts it:
What I claim is that the ways a comic can be bad are irreducibly plural and literally incommensurable — there is no way to put all these different ways together so that you end up with a single dimension of badness (which, if you recall, is what we need in order to declare something the X-est Y, in this case the worst comic of all time).
The point being…it’s hard for me to imagine that anyone participating in this roundtable, or anyone reading this roundtable, really believed when they picked a comic to discuss or read about that that comic was, in an objective or even in a subjective sense, the worst comic ever. Aesthetics isn’t math, and no one (except maybe Jones, in some of his more fey philosophical moods) thinks of it as math. When we talk about the “worst comic ever” we’re not actually talking about quantifying comics linearly. At most, I’d say, the ranking is a metaphor — and understood as such by virtually everyone who ranks any aesthetic object. Even in something like the HU Best Comics Poll, which was based on counting survey results, the organizer of the endeavor, Robert Stanley Martin point out that the ranking is “an interpretation”, not an algorithm — and that the list is therefore a conversation, not a solution.
Again, Jones focuses on the fact that there is no one — nor even two, nor ten, nor ten thousand — way(s) to evaluate comics. He presents this as evidence of the futility of naming the worst comic ever. But on the contrary, I think the impossibility and messiness of the task is precisely the reason that best of (and sometimes worst of) questions are fascinating — and illuminating. In choosing a best or worst, and in defending our choices, we reveal — and not just to others — what matters in art, and why. Of course those revelations are themselves often confused, vacillating, contradictory and vague — but that merely makes them a reflection of the aesthetics with which they’re engaged. Rather than thinking about ranking (or should we say criticism?) as a debased and innately functionless branch of logic, perhaps we could think of it as a genre itself — as useless, as frustrating, as stupid, as partial and as sublime as any other aesthetic effort to represent the world.
If the worst comic ever is a genre, one can perhaps ignore its possibility, and instead think about its tropes. In that context, and on the basis of this roundtable, I think subdee is dead on when she says, “Though there are exceptions, it seems to me that very often, to hate something you also have to love it.”
In life, real antipathy often has to wait upon love spurned — and that’s often the case in criticism as well. Thus, Bert Stabler writes about his early love and recent disillusionment with Chris Ware, while Jason Michelitch talks about his early love and recent disillusionment with Matt Wagner. Derik Badman and Richard Cook, on the other hand, write about realizing that that first shiny nostalgic love wasn’t so lovable after all. In other cases — for example, Ng Suat Tong, Susan Kirtley, Vom Marlowe, Matthias Wivel — love hovers in the background as a popular or critical imperative, transforming alienation or indifference into a more weaponized dislike.
Selecting the worst comic ever, then, seems to depend not only, as Jones argues, on all the myriad ways in which comics can be bad, but on all the myriad ways in which they can be good — and even more, perhaps, on the ways that it’s difficult to pull the two apart. The purpose or end of hate is love — and so, while this roundtable may be coming to a close, we can all rest easy knowing that as long as we love comics, there will be no end to hate.
Early on in the roundtable I mentioned that I didn’t think that hate was all that popular. Which just goes to show what I know. This last five weeks has seen far more traffic than we’ve ever gotten outside of the crazy couple months when the Victorian Wire post went viral. Perhaps the world really does love hate…but I suspect instead that the success is due to the genius, time, and care which all our contributors donated to help us celebrate our anniversary. Thanks so much to all those who posted, to those who commented, and to our readers as well. It’s been a great roundtable and a lovely five years.
The cover is from Fantastic Four #21 by Jack Kirby (who, of course, is hated here.)